I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen and heard the following statements: “YA fiction is so trashy and cliché”; “Are you still reading YA fiction? Aren’t you a bit too old for that?” ; “When are you going to read something more serious?” etc. YA fiction is criticized more than any other genre or age range and so are its readers. Today I want to talk about why YA doesn’t deserve the hate it gets and why it’s okay to love YA fiction (even when you’re not a teen).
If you love reading YA fiction but you’re not a teen, you’ve had to deal with one of the following: 1) you’ve felt ashamed for enjoying YA books or 2) someone called you out for reading YA fiction and made you feel ashamed. Either way, shame seems to be tied to YA fiction. For the sake of this post, I’m going to ignore the fact that anyone can read what they pretty damn well please and look at the reasons why there’s absolutely no reason to feel ashamed.
The main criticism YA fiction has to deal with is related to content. We’ve all heard it before. YA fiction is full of clichés, it’s badly written, it doesn’t deal with any “serious” issues, it’s trashy, etc. This one is the easiest to counteract. Sure, there are plenty of YA books that aren’t exactly high quality, but the same thing can be said about adult fiction. I’ve read plenty of adult fiction I found absolutely terrible. But does that mean I swear off all adult books and think they’re all bad? No, of course not. Some are good, some are bad. No matter the age range.
Also related to content: “YA fiction doesn’t deal with any serious / real-life issues.”. It’s very clear that whoever uses this argument hasn’t read a great deal of YA books because that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, there are plenty of YA books that are meant to be pure escapism (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) but there are just as many that deal with serious issues. Just think of all the YA books that discuss bullying, sexuality, racism, mental health, etc. Like The Hate U Give or History is All You Left Me, which are two of my all-time favourite books. These books discuss real life issues that real teenagers deal with outside of the fictional world so it’s absolutely necessary to have these books around. You can’t even begin to imagine how much difference a book can make in a person’s life.
Lastly, there’s the “Aren’t you too old for this?” and the answer is “Absolutely not”. YA fiction might be written for teenagers and young adults (approx. 14-18), but that doesn’t mean anyone else can’t enjoy it.
And, you know what? I love reading from the perspective of a teen. As a girl in her early twenties, I can relate to them a lot more than adults because I’m in that awkward not-a-teen-not-an-adult stage. You could argue that NA is perfect for people like me but I found that NA doesn’t appeal to me. At all. It’s a very new “genre” which means it’s going to take some time for it to take off and come into its own. When it does, maybe I’ll “switch” to NA.
Or maybe I won’t because there’s nothing wrong with reading YA when you’re not a teen. Some of the best books I’ve read are YA and, yes, I’ve read Hardy, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Woolf and all the rest of them. There was a time when I read nothing but classics (funnily enough, I read most of them when I was a teen), but, for now, I’m really enjoying YA and I’m not going to feel ashamed about it.